Change : By Degrees

If you work in HR and recruitment you’d be hard pressed not to have seen the news this week, in which publisher Penguin Random House (PRH) has confirmed that job applicants will no longer be required to have a university degree. PRH aren’t the first big firm to confirm this small and significant change in policy, but building on the success of their ‘The Scheme’ project, this feels like the first time the idea is getting mainstream exposure beyond the sometimes inward looking world of HR. Good stuff.

So what?

Lowering barriers to entry where it’s practical to do so is an important thing. I know because I don’t have a degree – I fell through the cracks of the formal education system in my late teens and and when Mum died shortly before I turned 19, I really lost any motivation to learn for a while. I subsequently struggled at times because people judged me on the length of the list of my qualifications. It’s an easy thing to measure.

I was also aware of this during my 12.5 years at BT – people using ‘you haven’t got a degree’ as a reason for not offering a job in my direction, despite the fact that I never did a job in BT which required one! I persisted and worked hard and eventually got to, and probably beyond where I wanted to. Yet too much effort was expended by me on navigating this ‘you haven’t got a degree’ barrier – when what I should have been doing, was the work itself. I hope that makes sense!

I’m fortunate. Along the way I rediscovered my love for learning and also my love for applying it too. I invest heavily in my own learning and development, I don’t regret not studying for a degree, and it’s good to see that finally – more people are getting to grips with the fact that not every role requires one. This is positive news, and I believe that what this small step does is afford these organisations which are willing to broaden their horizons, even more wonderful choices in future. It will be interesting to look back in a few years time and see what changes in the demographics of work emerge and stick as a result of this growing change in practice.